Magical. The word materialized as I walked across the threshold that separated the shop and the sidewalk, now made dreary and mundane by floor of yellowed pages that dictated my path to even more wonderment.
|The famous floor of books!|
My interest was first piqued by a friend’s statement about those floors: “You must go, even just to see all the hard work those gals put into transforming that old building!” And I did go, and I’ve been back a number of times, and each time, I hardly ever notice where I’m standing anymore.
During my first visit, as I walked around the shop, I felt suspended. It’s as if I was in a limbo that embodied both the past and the present. The merchandise displayed seemed familiar, but also new. I was simultaneously bombarded by whimsy, punk, retro, and cheek. I was overwhelmed, but Laura and Ainslie made me feel at ease. When I planned to interview them for this feature, I knew that our “little chat” was going to last a few hours (just like our last chat did) and our conversation would span a gamut of topics (We talked antiques, societal issues, retirement, cats. The important stuff). It’s hard to be quiet or shy around these energy-fueled creativity mavens.
Ainslie Heilich and Laura Davis, the dynamic duo behind Vintage Karma, ooze coolness and the spirit of DIY and sustainability. Apart from their laid back and friendly personalities, their emphasis on repurposing and reinterpreting objects from the past strikes more than a few chords with my vintage and DIY-loving soul.
Vintage Karma is situated in the heart of Downtown Tuscola, housed in an old building that used to be a grocers and mercantile business in the late 19th century. Ainslie and Laura expanded their tattoo studio from Stroudsburg, PA to a retail store that now offers a bevy of handmade goods and crafts made by local artists. When asked about their inspiration to open such a unique store, their response was inspirational and gutsy: “We fantasized a long time about it, and the opportunity appeared out of the sky, and we just did it.” But their actions were even gutsier: Laura left her conventional yet frustrating job as a journalist, took a huge pay cut, and paved a new path for herself. Ainslie sacrificed her comfortable tattooing routine and well-established clientele in PA in order for both of them to have a life together where both their dreams could be actualized.
The story behind the store name is also inspiring. Ainslie relates the long process of coming up with a name for her tattoo shop that was cool, unprecedented, and something she could identify with. “The words Vintage Karma… at first seemed nonsensical. Then I stopped and thought about it, and it made me think of the Japanese philosophy of Onkochisin which means to use the past to create your future, which was perfect.” Ainslie has followed that way of thinking all her life, putting as much effort, research, and passion into all of her pieces, whether they be tattoos or other media. And the name does roll off the tongue, doesn’t it?
On the vein of repurposing, I asked about the famous floor, which was made with the pages of 24 discarded or damaged books. “There’s an absurdness to creating a whole floor of book pages, but it works,” Ainslie prefaces the winding tale. Laura adds,“There’s a possibility in the absurdness of it!” That spurred a long conversation about sinus infections, tennis elbows, insanity, frustration, and perseverance. Reading between the lines of their animated narration, I could tell that their floor, and their shop, are 100% products of love.
I asked the ladies what their favorite thing about VK is. For Laura, VK represents possibility. “Now that I work for myself, there are so many options. I can be creative and make things. I can take the shop in so many directions.” Ainslie adds, “Since VK is ours, it’s something that is always a work of progress. We’re allowed to change it, and we have the power to do it. And that’s the whole point of why people want to be their own bosses—to have the freedom and power to do what they want.”
Today Vintage Karma is celebrating their first year of being in business in Tuscola, IL, and things are only getting better and brighter for them. They recently launched a new line of in-house apothecary goods ranging from handmade candles, soaps, and balms. I asked them about what else is in store in the future for VK, to which the response was a resounding “Who knows? Things happen and sometimes bad things happen for good reasons. We have plans but we like to have things happen naturally.” I kinda like that attitude of embracing uncertainty and adapting to whatever is thrown in one’s path. If there’s one thing I learned from these lovely ladies, it’s that dreams are best lived, not just chased.